The 2021 NFL Draft has an interesting class of EDGE defenders. In previous years we’ve seen a clear-cut top pass rusher, usually a player who dominated the collegiate ranks with a combination of size, athleticism, or technique.
This year there isn’t that one dominant player who sets the top of the depth chart. However, there are a number of players jockeying for position on teams’ draft boards. One of those players looking to raise his draft stock in this fluid situation is Patrick Jones II out of Pittsburgh.
Jones is a very experienced pass rusher and has a reputation as one of the better defensive ends in the college football. It just so happens that the New York Giants have a pressing need for a player who can give them a pass rush off the edge.
Could Jones be that player?
Prospect: Patrick Jones II
Games Watched: vs. North Carolina (2019), vs. Virginia (2019), vs. Syracuse (2019), vs. Miami (2020)
Games Played: 48
Tackles For a loss: 32.0
Forced Fumbles: 5
Passes Defensed: 4
Games Played: 11
Tackles For a loss: 9.0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Passes Defensed: 3
Best: Explosiveness, competitive toughness, pass rush moves
Worst: Consistency, mental processing
Projection: Pass rush specialist with starting upside in an attacking 1-gap defense.
Pittsburgh red-shirt senior defensive end Patrick Jones II has good height and weight for the position at the NFL level. Jones aligned at both left and right defensive end for the Pittsburgh defense, playing out of 3 and 4-point stances, as well as at the 7 and 9-techniques.
Jones flashes a potent first step, with the ability to fire out of his stance with both power and leverage. He is a polished pass rusher with the ability to win with both power, showing good long-arm and forklift moves, as well as speed with an effective arm-over move. He also has good lateral agility for inside moves as the looper in stunts along the line of scrimmage.
He is a reliable defender in the run game, with the ability to set a firm edge, as well as a good understanding of how to use his hands to defeat cut blocks. Jones II is also a solid tackler who wraps up and limits opponents’ chances for yards after the catch.
While Jones II flashes impressive upside, he does not do so with consistency. Inconsistencies plague nearly every facet of his game, such as inconsistent snap timing, leverage, hand usage, and explosiveness out of his stance. The root of the problem seems to be with mental processing, as he plays his slowest and least consistent when the offensive playbook is wide open. Jones shows a visible hesitancy out of his stance when the offense shows jet motion, an option play, or play-action. In those instances he can struggle to track the ball, and even lose leverage out of his stance or fail to meet blockers with his hands.
Jones II also lacks ideal length, and can struggle to disengage from longer-armed tackles who can get their hands on him first.
Overall Grade: 7.0 - This prospect should be a contributor right away in the right situation, but will need smart development to reach his full potential.
Patrick Jones II projects best as a rotational pass rusher in an attacking, one-gap defense.
Jones has the ability to produce right away for a defense, but defensive coordinators will need to be careful to put him in positions where he is able to play fast. He is an impact player when offensive options are limited, but can be maddeningly inconsistent when forced to track the ball and decipher misdirection.
Jones II played almost exclusively as a defensive end in a four-man front, and would likely have the shortest learning curve in that style of defense at the NFL level. Multiple or 3-4 based defenses could still use him in nickel packages, though it is unknown whether he could be an every-down player in a defense which asks its edge defenders to frequently play out of 2-point stances.
There is a lot to like about Patrick Jones II when he is at his best. He flashes the ability to win with speed, technique, and power, to be a stout run defender, and an impact player. But he can also be incredibly frustrating when he doesn’t bring those traits to bear, being tardy off the snap, losing his leverage early, shoulder-checking a tackle rather than engaging with his hands, or losing track of the football on play-action.
That being said, his best football could still be ahead of him if he lands with a team who have a plan to nurture his skill set and minimize his exposure.